“An iconic mountain in the San Juans with gorgeous 360-degree views.”
— aaron moore
Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers
Avy danger in the winter is significant in the San Juans, including Coalbank Pass, so please be careful.
You can see Engineer Mountain from certain areas in Durango, and this iconic peak dominates the skyline around Coalbank Pass. This is a classic scramble in beautiful country. After a pleasant jaunt through the forest you can scramble, climb, and crawl your way up Engineer Mountain.
Need to Know
On weekends the Coalbank parking lot gets busy. It's best to leave early and have the added bonus of trail solitude.
I know we all know it, but especially going down when it is busy, uphill hikers have the right of way. Please be aware of the folks going up.
For those wanting some extra mileage, once you get back to the junction in the meadow you can stay on the Engineer Mountain Trail
and head south off of Coalbank and a trail will take you to Cascade Creek which is at the base of Coalbank Pass. You will need to hitch a ride back up to Coalbank if you are completing this extension.
Upon leaving Coalbank Pass, most of the forested Pass Creek Trail
is easily navigable on the way up to the base of Engineer Mountain. After about 2.5 miles of forest trail, you emerge into meadow with Engineer Mountain looming above you.
Once you reach an open meadow, make your way up the Pass Creek Trail
, though heavy vegetation might obscure the view. You'll see the defined path going up towards Engineer Mountain, and you should take it. There is a trail running mainly north and south, that is the Engineer Mountain Trail
that you'll cross when going up towards Engineer Mountain.
From the meadow, you'll continue your ascent of Engineer Mountain via an unofficial trail. The area sees enough traffic that your way will be easy to discern. Rock cairns also mark the path. Take the switchbacking route to a nice viewpoint that some know as the Eagle's Nest. If you decide to keep going, you'll be scrambling and maybe using your hands on the way up. All in all, from the meadow you'll gain roughly 1300 feet in about .75 of a mile.
Good luck keeping your speed up in this section, the technical terrain will slow even the most experienced runners. While there is a trail, once you are actually on Engineer Mountain there is a fair bit of exposure and scrambling. Even though you are scrambling, Engineer sees enough traffic that a trail is visible on the way up. If you don't feel comfortable going on, it's okay! Stop, turn around, have a seat, and enjoy the views. There isn't a bad seat in the house!
Once you are done enjoying the views or have reached the summit, go down carefully and take the same way down back to your car.
Flora & Fauna
The wildflowers are amazing in summer and fall once you get to the meadow. Be prepared to take lots of flower photos.